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Are Your trees rotting from the inside out?

Could you be taking your tree's health for granted? Often, large established trees seem like they are self sufficient, static features in the landscape. Unless they have a very obvious illness or infestation, we often assume the tree is healthy. We also may not be paying attention to poor maintenance practices applied by landscape maintenance companies; or we might be guilty of poor practices ourselves. Bad maintenance can cause a host of tree issues that may not be obvious to the untrained eye.

Under bad maintenance practices, many fungal diseases can thrive. Destructive decay in trees can be the silent killer you never notice until it’s too late. Eventually, your tree could become a hazard to your family and property, but you won’t know it until it topples over.


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Early diagnosis is your best approach to giving your trees a long and healthy life.

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Regularly inspecting your trees for tell-tale signs of disease is a good policy. Having a yearly tree check by a qualified certified arborist should be on your household maintenance checklist. A qualified arborist can inspect your trees and find hazards you may have never noticed. The recent heavy rainfall has brought with it a host of fungal diseases. Varnish fungus, or Ganoderma lucidum, is one such fungus that can advance slowly, killing your tree right under your nose.

What is Varnish Fungus?

Do you have oak, pecan, cedar elm, or pear trees on your property? It is these medium to large shade trees that are most often affected by varnish fungus. Large shrubs such as red tip photinia can also fall victum. Varnish fungus is a soil borne pathogen that enters into the root system of trees and shrubs by way of damaged roots or already decaying tissue. It survives in the soil by feeding on this decaying organic matter.

Do your trees show signs of decay?

The most noticeable sign of varnish fungus is a large fungal conk at the base of your tree. It may vary in color, but tends to be a deep orange-red or rust color. It also has a smooth, shiny surface. Once you see the fungal conk, it generally means your tree’s root system has already been severely compromised.

Other signs that your tree may have varnish fungus include large scale defoliation and branch dieback. It is always best to have a certified arborist check these additional signs as they are oftentimes mistaken for other diseases or insect infestations.

Prevention: Keep Trees Healthy & Safe

Because varnish fungus enters your tree through damaged tissue, it’s important to protect the tree trunk and roots from equipment or construction damage.

How to protect your trees:

  • Protect trees during construction. Putting protective barriers around trees will keep heavy machinery from damaging the roots or bark.
  • Avoid operating mowers and weedeaters near the base of trees as they can easily damage the tree, opening wounds that act as entry points for disease.
  • Plant trees properly. When trees are planted too deep, bark around the tree trunk can soften and crack, allowing pathogens to enter.
  • Always have a crew run by a qualified arborist prune your valuable trees. When, where and how pruning cuts are made play a big part in disease control and pest infestations.
  • Don’t overwater your landscape. Be sure to repair irrigation leaks or address dainage issues that may contribute to excess moisture around the base of your trees.

Now is a good time to take a close look at your trees. If you can’t see the base of your tree’s trunk, or the surrounding root flare, it’s a good idea to have the root flare exposed by a professional. Root flare exposure can also help your arborist better inspect for diseases like varnish fungus.

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Posted: June 1, 2015